I choose to wear my wedding band, even though the hot air makes my fingers swell. After all, we are celebrating ten years of marriage, it would seem like a strange thing to leave at home. It is not the band we were married in – that one lives in a drawer with a safety lock. Not for burglars but for the sticky hands of my daughter who finds a ring in the morning and throws it down the toilet at night. Not this one, honey. This one is special.
That special ring, sits in its special box and waits for special occasions. Grocery store shopping and teaching fourth period doesn’t quite feel ceremonial enough. Instead my finger is adorned with a simpler version of the special ring. However, it is engraved with the same words “I really mean it”. This is a legacy my father started with my mother. She could never quite be sure if he was pulling her leg, so for all important matters, they adopted the “I really mean it” rule. The rule is simple: you cannot lie when the words are spoken. For my husband and I, the rule has became a modern ketubah of sorts; a proclamation of our vows. As Michael Buble crooned, whatever comes our way, we’ll see it through, because you know it’s what our love can do. I really mean it.
And today our hands are calm while our feet dangle off the Bermuda pier. Between us sit two grey plastic boxes. The official label on one has faded. That box has traveled as carry-on, sat in the underwear drawer, and for a stint was colored on during the “wall is fair game for art” phase. But mostly, it just patiently waited on the top of the desk. Where does one leave such a box after all?
An identical box appeared six years later. The markings were different but it was unmistakably the same. It was decided the two boxes would wait together until it we knew where to put them.
Which brings us to the crystal waters of Bermuda. A ten year wedding anniversary to celebrate the first time we made “I really mean it” official. We walk the streets, with our diaper bag, but the typical wipes and extra snacks contents have been replaced by the boxes. They are surprisingly light despite their heaviness. For this reason, we carry them with us. We carry them through the streets of Hamilton. Down Church street and into the local shops. I pick up a plate. I have seen this before. It was in the belongings we donated from her house. She had this exact pattern. I tighten the straps on my backpack and exit the store.
Our next stop, extravagant jewelry. She would have loved this. I saunter up and down the aisles, as if looking at the pieces through her eyes. Subconsciously my thumb twists the plain band on my left hand. My heart swells with joy as a pit forms in my stomach. Let’s go.
We search until we find the perfect place. We had not planned the particulars, just a peaceful spot near the water . We let our feet dangle over the edge and empty the contents of our diaper bag. Two boxes. We hold them in front of us while I take lookout to make sure what we aren’t doing won’t get us in trouble with the locals. They would have loved that.
The boxes open, we remain silent, and turn them over. Gently dust soars out. The contents of the boxes mix together in the eastern wind. It’s like they are holding hands. The ashes collect at the surface of the water and quickly dissipate. Mother and daughter forever at rest together.
I grab my husband’s hand.
We are a team.
We sit silently until there is nothing further to say.
We throw the boxes away and hop a bus to the next island.
This is what we must do. We fight for balance.
We spread ashes in the morning and win cruise Bingo at night. We desperately miss our children and then revel in sleeping in past 4am. We shed tears of sorrow over lunch and then dominate show-tune trivia.
I am reminded it is human to feel the opposing forces of life around you.
There is a place for sorrow in a house of joy.
You can find the balance too – I really mean it.